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Icing: It's not just for hockey anymore ... it's an ethical quandary

Calling time out to “ice” the kicker, as USC did Saturday, is standard practice in football, but s

Reader Patrick Gallagher of Long Beach demands more notes columns. Statistics say we'd better respond.

In a recent scientifically inconclusive Los Angeles Times readership poll of 200 nuns, 47 ex-felons and 622 out-of-work lawyers, my regular readership was established at 10. The margin-for-error was 67%, since newspapers don't do readership surveys anymore. They just count web hits.

Still, this hurt deeply, because 197 of the 200 nuns said they read only Plaschke.

So, notes it will be for Mr. Gallagher, who represents 10% of my readership:

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At first, second and third look, those two icing-the-kicker timeouts USC took in beating Arizona on Saturday night were clever moves. Both times, Casey Skowron missed for Arizona. The first time, his field-goal attempt was partially blocked. The second time, after striping one perfectly through the uprights a nanosecond after USC called time out in the closing seconds of the game, he missed the second try wide right and his team lost.

Years ago, there was a conference in Phoenix, run by local lawyer and ethicist Michael Josephson and his Character Counts program. John Wooden was the main speaker and many top coaches and college administrators from around the country attended. There were discussions of things such as icing the kicker, and icing the free-throw shooter. The group struggled with the clash of competitive edge versus sportsmanship.

Wooden said later that these things bothered him. He did them — he wanted that competitive edge — but he wished he hadn't needed to use such tactics.

We are light-years beyond even thinking of such things now, and this is not meant in any way to imply that USC and Steve Sarkisian did anything wrong. Their mandate is to win, with whatever legal means they can. And they did.

Still, it's worth pondering this, especially as college sports carry us deeper into the abyss of winning-at-all-costs and fan idiocy.

It isn't directly germane, but here are some samples of the current sports world we live in. These Twitter entries were directed at Skowron after the game. All are anonymous, of course:

"Our kicker made Helen Keller look good as a replacement."

"This just in — U of A kicker found hanging in the locker room."

"I hope your entire family dies of cancer."

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We excel at one aspect of sports these days: The blame game.

It seems that Don Mattingly was to blame for Clayton Kershaw's getting knocked around by the St. Louis Cardinals. Fire him.

It seems that Mike Scioscia was to blame for Collin Cowgill's trying to take an extra base against the Kansas City Royals and being thrown out. Fire him.

Ned Colletti is to blame for multimillion-dollar bullpen pitchers who don't pitch well. Fire him.

Arte Moreno is to blame for spending multimillions on guys who didn't play worth a nickel. Send him to Tustin.

Sarkisian is to blame for hiring a defensive coordinator who didn't teach his players to put their hands up or try to knock away a Hail Mary pass.

UCLA has a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback and has lost twice. Blame Jim Mora.

Blah, blah, blah. Is the need to fill newspaper space and broadcast airtime that vital?

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If the San Francisco Giants win the World Series, will they take all the razor blades out of the medicine cabinets at Dodger Stadium?

Is the guy playing second base for the Cardinals really named Kolten Wong, or are the announcers just mispronouncing Babe Ruth?

Are there two sweeter-swinging left-handed-hitting leadoff men in the major leagues than the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter and the Angels' Kole Calhoun? They are redefining the position, from slap-hitting track stars to guys who can slap it into the seats.

Since Cowgill got thrown out by the Royals, the Angels lost and now we have to stay home and watch all this stuff on TV, we have thoughts on the never-ending commercials:

(A) If they don't stop running the same ones over and over, we will throw a shoe through the TV screen; (B) We've been to store after store and cannot find side-by-side bathtubs; (C) The stupidest commercial ever made is the one for college football, where Lou Holtz keeps ringing a cowbell. It achieves one thing — making a guy 117 years old, who is still bright and has lots to say, into a circus act.

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NASCAR has become hockey. It recently had a fight and a race broke out.

Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart went at it on Saturday. There were headlocks and curse words.

How stupid was it for Stewart, who played a minor role in this by ramming his car backward into Keselowski's car, to be a player at all? Stewart just went through a case where he was cleared by a grand jury of any criminal charges after the car he was driving struck another driver who was walking on the track after a crash, and the man died. If you were Stewart, wouldn't it be smart to cool it for awhile, to show no signs to the world that you have a bad temper?

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Most NBA players are honing the skills most important for them in the upcoming regular season by shooting, running and passing. Blake Griffin worked on his psychological edge the other night. He got a technical foul in an exhibition game.

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When Matt Barkley came back for his senior football season at USC, instead of turning pro, he was greatly praised by the media. We know how that turned out.

Same thing this year with Brett Hundley at UCLA. We know how that is currently turning out.

Let's blame Plaschke and the nuns.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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